Monday, August 25, 2014

URSP Student Alex Nixon Develops an Inhaled Drug Delivery System to Treat Bacterial Diseases

One of the biggest things I've learned this summer (and coincidentally, one of the things my mentor constantly reminds me about) is research is not a 9-5 job. For me, research has consisted of being in the lab at 6 am (like today) in order to carry out a reaction and staying as late as 2 am in order to centrifuge and wash the nanoparticles I’m working with on top of being in and out of the lab at what would be considered normal hours. While it’s crazy to be working until 2 am some nights, what’s even crazier, is that I’m perfectly okay with it, in fact I love those nights.

Now that we've established that I’m crazy, you might be wondering what my project actually is, and what a typical week might look like for me. This summer, I’m trying to develop a porous microparticle that encapsulates an antibiotic (in my case, gentamicin sulfate) and can be used as an inhaled drug delivery system. In really simple terms, thing of a golf ball (that’s much smaller of course) with all of the dimples replaced with holes. This porous structure makes it incredibly light despite being quite large and will allow us to deliver the drug in a way similar to an inhaler works. 

In order to actually synthesize these particles, there’s a lot of things that I have to do. In a week, I can typically synthesize a few batches, depending on what I want to test. Today, I’m trying out a new procedure that modifies the drug to make it more hydrophobic (water-fearing) and thus allows it to be better encapsulated. Today is one of those 6 am days, and could very well turn into a 2 am day as well since I need to carry out a three hour reaction, let it evaporate and then start to synthesize the microparticles. Tomorrow morning, I’ll need to come in and centrifuge and wash the particles in order to collect and purify them as well as prepare a scanning electron microscope (SEM) sample. Then I’ll need to reserve a time to take the metro into George Washington University in order to use their SEM, since Mason doesn't have one of it’s own. Only then will I actually be able to see the external structure of my microparticles to see if all of that work I put in yielded a good result.